Activists and relatives of victims of the Beirut port explosion during a demonstration on September 29, 2021 outside the capital's Justice Palace

Angry relatives of Beirut blast victims protest probe delays

Outcry comes after decision to freeze probe into Beirut port blast that killed 200 and wounded thousands following smear campaign against lead investigating judge by Lebanon's political class as well as terrorist group Hezbollah

Reuters |
Published: 09.29.21, 19:03
Hundreds of relatives of victims of last year's Beirut port explosion, some chanting and some silent, took to the streets on Wednesday angry that an investigation into the disaster had been delayed for the second time this year.
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  • Some carried miniature figures of people on death row with signs below reading "the end for anyone corrupt", while others stood in silence, carrying photos of their loved ones.
    4 צפייה בגלריה
    Activists and relatives of victims of the Beirut port explosion scuffle among themselves as Lebanese security members try to interfere during a demonstration on September 29, 2021 outside the capital's Justice Palace
    Activists and relatives of victims of the Beirut port explosion scuffle among themselves as Lebanese security members try to interfere during a demonstration on September 29, 2021 outside the capital's Justice Palace
    Activists and relatives of victims of the Beirut port explosion during a demonstration on September 29, 2021 outside the capital's Justice Palace
    (Photo: AFP)
    Powerful parties including the Shi'ite group Hezbollah and others in the ruling elite have alleged bias in the investigation. Some in the crowd chanted "Hezbollah are terrorists".
    The demonstrators gathered in front of Beirut's Palace of Justice angry that more than a year on, no top officials have been held accountable for an explosion that killed more than 200 people, wounded thousands and destroyed large swathes of the capital.
    "We are trying the impossible to reach a result in this probe," Joumana Khalifa, whose cousin and friends were killed in the blast, said.
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    The immediate aftermath of the devastating Aug. 2020 explosion at Beirut port
    The immediate aftermath of the devastating Aug. 2020 explosion at Beirut port
    The immediate aftermath of the devastating Aug. 2020 explosion at Beirut port
    (Photo: AFP)
    The blast, one of the biggest non-nuclear explosions ever recorded, was caused by a huge quantity of ammonium nitrate that was unsafely stored at the port from 2013.
    The probe was frozen on Monday on the basis of a legal complaint by Nohad Machnouk, a Sunni Muslim lawmaker and former interior minister, whom the lead investigating judge, Tarek Bitar, wants to question on suspicion of negligence.
    Machnouk's claim calls Bitar's impartiality into question. Should the court of cassation accept the claim, Bitar will be removed.
    4 צפייה בגלריה
    Anti-government activists and families of Beirut Blast victims take part in a protest, in front the Justice Palace in Beirut, Lebanon, 29 September 2021
    Anti-government activists and families of Beirut Blast victims take part in a protest, in front the Justice Palace in Beirut, Lebanon, 29 September 2021
    Anti-government activists and families of Beirut Blast victims take part in a protest, in front the Justice Palace in Beirut, Lebanon, 29 September 2021
    (Photo: EPA)
    Prime Minister Najib Mikati has said he hoped Bitar would continue in his role. The French foreign ministry also said it regretted the suspension of the investigation.
    The move followed a smear campaign by Lebanon's political class against Bitar, the second judge to lead the probe after his predecessor was forced out following similar accusations by officials he wanted to question about suspected negligence.
    One protester said politicians were acting with impunity.
    4 צפייה בגלריה
     political graffiti is visible in front of the scene of the Aug. 4 explosion that hit the seaport of Beirut, Lebanon.
     political graffiti is visible in front of the scene of the Aug. 4 explosion that hit the seaport of Beirut, Lebanon.
    Political graffiti is visible in front of the scene of the Aug. 4 explosion that hit the seaport of Beirut, Lebanon
    (Photo: AP)
    "I lost my father while he was sitting with us at home," Mohieldin Ladkani said, adding that he and other family members were injured.
    "If they take away the file from Bitar that means they are behaving like they are above the law," he said. "And if they are above the law, then why aren't the families of the victims above the law and take matters into our own hands?
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